The primary cilium is a cellular organelle that is almost ubiquitous in eukaryotes, yet its functions in vertebrates have been slow to emerge. The last fifteen years have been marked by accelerating insight into the biology of primary cilia, arising from the synergy of three major lines of research. These research programs describe a specialized mode of protein trafficking in cilia, reveal that genetic disruptions of primary cilia cause complex human disease syndromes, and establish that Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signal transduction requires the primary cilium. New lines of research have branched off to investigate the role of primary cilia in neuronal signaling, adult neurogenesis, and brain tumor formation. We review a fast expanding literature to determine what we now know about the primary cilium in the developing and adult CNS and what new directions should lead to further clarity.
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